CARBONDALE — Although the Salukis defeated the University of New Orleans, 72-55, in the season-opener at New Orleans, Tuesday’s night’s return game with the Privateers proved to be a challenge.
The Salukis struggled in the first half, trailing by 13 points at one time. Coach Barry Hinson cited several reasons for the struggle, including the absence of starting point guard Kendal Brown-Surles.
Brown-Surles, a senior, was sidelined by strep throat. He didn’t attend the game. In addition to starting at the point, Brown-Surles leads the team in minutes played, averaging 32.6 minutes per game.
“How important is Kendal Brown to our basketball team?” Hinson said. “I think we found out he’s pretty important.
“We’ve been trying to find a backup point guard. We’ve been playing by committee, whether it be T.J. (Lindsay) or Anthony (Beane, Jr.), Jalen (Pendleton) hasn’t been playing a whole lot. We play Jalen at point guard every day in practice. We’ve been trying to play Colby (Long) a little bit.”
Lindsay got the start at the point and logged 28 minutes.
Pendleton, a freshman, was the major beneficiary of Brown-Surles’ absence. He played 27 minutes. He had been averaging just six points per game.
“Going into practice this morning we were told Kendal wasn’t going to play tonight,” Pendleton said. “Coach let me know that he was going to give me a shot. He just wanted me to play my game. We really emphasized playing defense, not turning the ball over and rebounding. I kind of turned the ball over a little too much. That’s something I have to work on.”
That last point wasn’t lost on Hinson.
“I thought tonight if we have to take one byproduct of the game, I thought Jalen played well, other than a couple of ninth-grade moves,” Hinson said. “One assist and four turnovers at the point guard position … it’s supposed to be the other way around.”
On the other hand, Pendleton was a stabilizing influence during SIU’s first quarter swoon. With the Salukis struggling from the floor and the free throw line, Pendleton made four straight free throws in the first half to keep the Salukis in the game.
And, when New Orleans took a late run at the SIU, the freshman stepped up again.
Moments after Rarlensee Nelson’s three-point play cut the SIU lead to 66-61 with 1:39 to play, Pendleton scored on a strong drive to the bucket. He made the ensuing free throw, re-establishing an eight-point advantage.
Two possessions later, Pendleton drew a charge, further dimming New Orleans’ comeback hopes.
“Kendal is our point guard,” said Dantiel Daniels. “It was different without him because Kendal is so talkative. He’s our floor general, but I think Jalen picked up the slack for us. I really appreciated that because we needed him. Jalen really showed up tonight.”
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